This movie owes a lot to the films of Robert Altman, specifically films like Nashville, and Short Cuts. The action takes during the final day of the 2004 Oktoberfest in Munich. The film follows the stories of band leader Max, and his disillusioned wife Birgit, a pair of dishwashers from Cameroon, two young women whose friendship is strained during the event, a trio of young Italian men out to have a good time, a divorced father and his two children, a newlywed couple from Japan, a ghost train ride owner who can no longer make ends meet, and a disturbed young man who seems to be playing psychological games with the head of fair security.
The various stories intermingle and criss cross during the day. It is a lot to keep track of, but Johannes Brunner keeps the action moving smoothly throughout the film. Barbara Rudnik plays the aging and disappointed Birgit and is the sexiest older woman this side of Helen Mirren. Anna Brüggemann plays the daughter of the ghost train ride owner and she brings a hip tomboyish quality to the role.
While the film is mostly in German, The Japanese speak Japanese, the Italians speak Italian, and these two groups speak English when talking to others. This gives the film the feeling that you are visiting an event that is truly international.
With films like this, where you are following the lives of several people over a one day period--and I would include in this list older films, such as Grand Hotel and The Longest Day--they work best when, at the end of the film, you feel like you've been on a journey yourself. In this regard, Oktoberfest succeeds admirably.
Most of the music for the film is provided by Raimund Ritz and Rainer Kühn, and adds an interesting, dream-like quality to the the action. Thomas Riedelsheimer's cinematography is remarkably good, without ever showboating or drawing attention away from the story.
The main flaw in the film is that, at 100 minutes, many of the stories inevitably receive short shrift. We would like to learn more about the Cameroonian dishwashers and their relationship to Max and Birgit. Characters seem to have fairly extensive back stories, but often we are not privy to enough of the details to completely work out what is going on. Brunner seems to assume that his audience is German, so important events involving a bomb that was planted at the Oktoberfest back in 1980 are never fully explained. Also, director Brunner occasionally slips in scenes that display the interior turmoil of individual characters. In some places this works just fine, but in other places, you'll end asking "What was that?"
If you like this sort of multiple story, day's journey kind of film, then Oktoberfest my be just the film you are looking for.
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